In a response to a lawsuit filed by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake (the whistleblower unsuccessfully prosecuted under the Espionage Act), Bill Binney, and Edward Loomis, and former congressional staffer Diane Roark, NSA incredibly claims that there is classified information on Wiebe’s computer, reports Josh Gerstein of Politico.
The whistleblowers filed the suit in November seeking property seized in the retaliatory criminal investigation, which targeted four complainants to the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG), Binney, Wiebe, Roark, and Loomis, and key DoD IG witness, Drake, and resulted in the Justice Department’s spectacularly failed Espionage Act case against Drake.
You’d think after the malicious classification chicanery in the Drake case, the Justice Department and NSA would have learned their lesson. Obviously, if the unreturned property contained such damning information, the Justice Department would have used it against Drake at trial, since most of the “evidence” the government tried to introduce against him was deemed to be unclassified and caused their case to crumble.
The fact that NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate Deputy now claims that two documents contain information that is “currently and properly” classified at an uber-secret level suggests that these documents were only deemed so after a “forced classification review” of the seized items, just as had been done to Thomas Drake–about which Bush’s former classification czar (J. William Leonard) said he had never seen a “more deliberate and willful example of government officials improperly classifying a document.”
A couple of points on the government’s secrecy-abusing response:
(1) The FBI seized these computers in 2007 – over four years ago – as part of the years-long, millions-spent but completely fruitless hunt for the sources of the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times article that exposed NSA’s constitutionally-dubious warrantless wiretapping program. Now the government claims it needs more time to analyze two hard drives:
Because of the size of emerging technologies in digital storage media, analysis of oftentimes an arduous process . . .
Given the volume of the hard disk drives, and the time it will take to perform a complete review to separate classified from unclassified information, a time consuming process is expected.
Is this part of NSA’s fear-mongering rhetoric?? Because it scares the heck out of me that over four years is not enough time for the country’s most powerful data collection agency to analyze two hard drives. Supposedly it’s an “arduous process.” (No wonder NSA needs to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on storage facilities.)
(2) How does the government propose the Court handle the apparently-infinite time needed to go through two hard drive seized in 2007? By putting the case in the hands of a magistrate instead of federal Judge Richard D. Bennett. It is no surprise NSA would prefer Judge Bennett not handle the case involving an unjustifiable government delay and outlandish secrecy claims. Judge Bennett is wise to NSA’s hysterical, unfounded cries of secrecy having presided over the failed case against Drake, and Bennett the Justice Department for the 2 1/2 year delay between the 2007 raid on Drake’s home and 2010 indictment saying such an “unconscionable” delay “did not past the smell test,” and comparing it to British abuses of colonial Americans.
For his part, Wiebe was skeptical about the government’s newest secrecy assertions, telling Politico,
“I am dismayed to hear the government thinks there is classified information on either or both of my two computers. Frankly, I wouldnt put classified information on my computers. After 32 plus years in the business, you dont do that sort of thing, and again frankly speaking I could not conceive of a need to ever do so . . .”
Weibe’s skepticism is justifiable. In February 2010, the government gave both him and Bill Binney immunity from criminal prosecution. (Drake, Binney and Wiebe are clients of GAP.)
In the words of Bush classification czar Bill Leonard:
Every 6-year-old knows what a secret is. But apparently our nation’s national security establishment does not.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.